Questions answered for your first sprint tri training plan
The calendar tells me it’s spring, although it’s snowed every week for the past month and the last thing I want to do is get out on a bicycle. But in any event, my training plan has officially begun.
If this is your first year jumping into tri, welcome aboard! You will have many questions, but if you’re like me, they pretty much boil down to one: How do I get from “I just put down money to do WHAT?” to “I just did THAT!” with a reasonable level of sanity?
So here are my answers to some of the questions I remember having:
Do I need a training plan?
For a brand new triathlete, I believe the answer to this is a big “yes”. If you’ve never done this before, you’ll want to have a framework to guide you through the process. A plan will keep you on task, and also keep you from over-doing it and burning out.
I will readily admit that I am a “by-the-book” kind of gal. Quite literally. The first thing I do when undertaking pretty much any endeavor is make a beeline for the bookstore (yes, the actual bookstore) and find a book to tell me how to do whatever it is.
If you want to wing it on your first tri, I don’t recommend it. That said, if you have a reasonable level of fitness and are somewhat comfortable with swimming, biking, and running and are working out regularly in all three, you can probably finish a sprint race with no formal plan. (Please come back afterward and tell me how it went.)
Where can I find a training plan?
My all-time favorite training plan source is the Triathlete Magazine Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide. You’ll find plans for every level of fitness and distance of triathlon. (See above about going literally by the book.) But there are plenty of good plans out there. A quick search for “beginner sprint triathlon training plan” brings up searches from reputable sources including Triathlete Magazine, active.com, and Women’s Running. Choose one that you believe is attainable in the time you are able to devote to it.
What will my training plan look like?
For a sprint triathlon, most training plans will be twelve weeks long, divided into four-week segments. For each segment, you will gradually build for the first two weeks. The third week will be the peak, featuring the longest and most difficult workouts. You will taper, i.e., take it a bit easier, on week four, then start the whole cycle over again the next week.
Your beginner training plan for your first sprint race will probably include six workouts per week, two in each discipline, and one rest day. Take advantage of that rest day; it is there for a reason. In fact, the whole process is designed to gradually build your fitness level and get you to the finish line without burning out.
What if I miss a day?
The summer I did my first race, I religiously stuck to the plan. (I think my husband concluded I really had converted to a strange new religion, a cult at that.) I don’t think I missed a day. The next year, I took a few unplanned days off. Guess what? I finished both races happily, and was satisfied with my results.
Listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to call it off every now and again. Your triathlon lifestyle needs to gibe with your real lifestyle or you won’t stick with it. As I write this, I’m sitting with a toddler in my lap who wants nothing more than to play with Mama’s keyboard and who will most certainly derail a workout day at some point. i.hidfsbj,efsnklbA. (Sorry, see what I mean?) Chances are, you have similar “distractions” in your life that might make you miss a training day here and there. As long as you don’t start stringing together multiple “off” days in a row, just go with it. You will still finish.
Once you’ve completed your first race, you’ll get an idea of what you personally need for success. I completed my first post-baby race on four days a week. It wasn’t the speediest, but I made a choice to finish a race with a plan I knew I could sustain at that stage in my life rather than getting too ambitious.
Do I need a coach?
As long as you have a plan and are dedicated to sticking to it, no.
But having someone to guide you through the process and help you keep to your plan would motivate you, look into investing in one. Or see if there is a tri club in your area that has regular workouts, and maybe even a dedicated group coach.
Another time to consider a coach is if you’re trying to improve one discipline. For example, if this is your first race and you’re not so comfortable with swimming, find a swim coach.
This year, my plan looks a little different than it has in the past. For the first time in many years, my goal race is Olympic distance, so it will be a little more intense than in prior years. Due to my “real life” time commitments, I’m planning to train five days a week, with one bike ride a week. I’m also planning to take some swim lessons. I’m a comfortable swimmer, but my technique could use some tweaking. Finally, I plan to throw in a short core strength workout twice a week.
Please let me know below if this is your first race, or if you’re trying something new in your training this year. Happy spring, and good luck!